|Interview: Cindy Alexander by Sandman|
It was the summer of 2000 and I was perusing the music charts on mp3.com when I came upon this song titled, "Sick of Myself". I thought what a clever title so I gave the song a listen. WOW! The artist was Cindy Alexander and I fell immediately in love with her catchy melodies and witty lyrics! Later that year she was touring the midwestern states with the Bacon Brothers band and I got to see one of her shows as well as meet her afterwards. What a great night that was! She was even better live than on her recordings (and her recordings totally rock); and is as gracious and kind of person as one would ever hope to meet! I've seen her shows a few times since then and she only gets better and better! She is a vibrant entertainer with top notch music to back her up.
Cindy is truly one of the hardest working artists you will ever find, yet she always finds time for the many fans who frequent her shows. This girl has one of the largest fan bases if not the largest of any indie artist alive--and that's no accident! She constantly strives to better every aspect of her music and her show. She tours nonstop. She always takes the time to converse and joke with her fans and makes many new ones along her travels. She has played about everywhere, from the pubs of Germany to the streets of Kansas City. She will travel almost anywhere to spread the sound of her delightful music.
One of the biggest names of all time on mp3.com is now lighting up the pages of IndieMusicPeople.com ever so brightly. We are so honored to have her presence and her support here. Recently I had the chance to speak with her and get her thoughts about a number of things. Let's read the ponderings of the world's most adorable little "pnut" as she talks about everything from childhood musical memories to guest spots at "Metal Mania" reunion shows.
At what age do you first remember music making a lasting impression on you? By that I mean when did it enter your mind that I want to do that, I want to sing, to play an instrument, to create sounds and voices?
I remember being about six and singing along to my Dad's 8-tracks of John Denver, Neil Diamond and Fleetwood Mac. I also remember flipping through his vinyl record collection and being obsessed with the song Shaboom by the Crew Cuts. I was always "moved" by music. I sang along with the radio as a kid and danced whenever possible. I probably heard music when it wasn't even playing. My grandma was a music teacher and my greatest memories of her are of the two of us around the piano - she played and I sang Carpenters tunes. She inspired me to study piano. Had my first piano lesson at age 6 and my teacher fired me about 6 months later when I was improvising Beethoven. When I was 8 years old, my parents sent me to sleep away camp. Camp is a great place for kids to figure out what they are good at! I had a great part in the camp play and got to sing. I was encouraged to keep singing and keep performing. So at the next talent show at some family dude ranch, I sang "The Circle Game." People clapped. A lot. I ate it up. I tried out for school musicals in elementary school and got the leading roles. I was in the temple choir. Singing and performing were integral parts of my life at a very young age.
At what age did you first start producing musical compositions? When was the first time you remember sitting with a guitar and a pen? At what age did you think that maybe you were getting pretty good?
In high school I "made up" (I never thought of calling it "writing") songs but I never played them for anyone until Senior year. I "made up" a song for a school ceremony. It really wasn't until after college that I started "writing" and sharing musical compositions. I'm a late bloomer. I wrote mostly on piano and picked up guitar (taught myself how to fake) when I put together a band with my co-writer, Paul Trudeau, about ten years ago.
I happen to know that you have a bit of a theatrical backround. Please tell us about that and do you think that backround has helped you in the music business, or more specifically the entertainment side of the business?
I was a professional stage actress in my teenage years and early 20's - and I also did a little film and television. I won't go into that.....it was another lifetime ago. I can tell you , though, that being comfortable on stage is a plus. I did enough theater that by the time I started playing with a band, I wasn't nervous about live performance. It's natural to me. But the big difference between theater and performing music is this: For the former, I played someone else. For the latter, I play me. I don't even play me really....I AM me. The aim is completely different: rather than building layers of a character, I'm shedding layers of self-protection and become as vulnerable as I can possibly become in order to give you, the listener and the audience member, the complete TRUTH.
I heard this bizarre rumor that you were seen singing with Warrant at a "Metal Mania" reunion show in L.A. Is that just some tall tale from the west coast or is it true? If so, please tell us the details. Inquiring minds need to know!
Jani Lane and I had the same manager when I first started - Obi Steinman. Obi still manages Jani....and when Jani booked the Metal Mania Unplugged show, they decided it would be cool to have a woman on stage playing keys and singing back up. Jani remembered me, called me up, and the rest is history: I was the only female on stage that night and got some great hair tips from Great White. Also had some quality time with Kip Winger, who insists that he is the Marquis De Sade reincarnated.
Please tell us how you came to meet Kevin Bacon and ended up touring with him and his band. What was that experience like?
Opened up for the Bacon Bros. at the Troubadour in 1998. We hit it off and I've been touring on and off with them ever since. GREAT guys. Some of the best times and biggest laughs have been on our tours together.
OK, my standard thought provoking, self probing question; What moves Cindy Alexander to pick up her guitar and pen? What is it, an urge, an idea, an irritation, a need, a moment? What is it that drives you to create musical compositions where we often see your heart worn brightly on your sleeve?
Sometimes it's a story I hear from a friend, sometimes it's inner torment, sometimes it's pure happiness and love, sometimes it's mortality slapping my face, sometimes it's a song on someone else's cd that begs for a response, sometimes it's the lure of my instrument and the songs appear as gifts from some higher source, sometimes it's writing on bathroom walls. I have to write. I have no choice but to write or go insane. That's why I was so inspired by the movie "Angels & Demons." If you don't know what I'm talking about, I entreat you to rent it.
How did you come to get involved with benefit cancer charities and events?
Both of my parents are cancer survivors. My Grandma wasn't as lucky. One of my best friends is currently battling brain cancer. There are very few of us out there that don't know SOMEBODY who has been afflicted by this disease, and it is a cause that is in dire need of our support. Actually, I think that if everyone gave just an hour a week of their time to any charity of their choice (and sometimes charity is at home....) the world would be a much better place. We all make excuses about being too busy - I know I've been guilty of that. There is ALWAYS time to give if you don't have the money. It may just be a phone call to someone who needs your support. One of my goals this year is to live a more balanced life. I have been so focused on my career in the past few years that I let a lot of opportunities for fulfillment pass me by. Giving to charity and participating in various benefits is one way for me to achieve some balance, and feel like I'm giving something back to a community which has certainly given me inspiration.
What are your thoughts about the state of the music industry today? Is the narrow generic product of today's market simply a bad or narrow minded business decision or rather has the whole business evolved to this sad point?
I'm one of those "glass is half full" kind of gals. With the internet and an ability to think outside the box, anything is possible for an independent artist (except maybe Clear Channel....). But commercial radio aside, there are MANY online radio stations that favor indie music as well as opportunities with Sattelite radio. You can even create your own podcast. If I sat around and sulked over the "state of the music industry" I would be unproductive. It has nothing to do with me. It doesn't affect the music I make. So maybe I'm not a household name because I don't have the millions of dollars it takes to break an act. However, I have a loyal and amazing fan base that doesn't seem to care about image, age or whether or not I have my own reality t.v. series.
Tell us about an embarrassing incident that you had onstage that you can never ever forget, try as you may.
There are many, and most of them have to do with my clothes...... The two that pop into mind simultaneously: 1) My zipper broke at the House of Blues when I was opening for Big Bad Voo Doo Daddy. It was fine as long as my guitar was in front of me, but when I had to go play a piano song or just sing out front, all hope was gone. Thank G-d I was wearing underwear. 2) I tried those "chicken cutlets" (silicone breast inserts) one night and one of 'em slid down and ended up on my stomach.
Have you got any good tips for all the singers out there on how to keep your voice healthy and also any remedies you might have for when one's voice isn't 100%. I know how much touring can test one's pipes!
Tricks of the trade: 1) Throat Coat Tea; 2) Pop those Airborne tablets 3 times a day while touring; 3) THE BEST TRICK OF ALL .....the steam room. Use it. Not only is it relaxing, it calms the voice, opens up the sinuses, and moisturizes the chords. Oh, and if you HAVE to, a couple advil take the swelling down if you're a bit hoarse.
If I went to Cindy's CD player right now and opened the tray, what CD's would I pull out?
Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head Beck - Sea Change Joni Mitchell - Clouds Tori Amos - Bee Keeper Andrew Woodworth - Mixtape Masterpiece (pre-release copy)
What artists over the years do you think have most influenced the sound of Cindy Alexander?
My influences are more subtle than me obsessing over other artists. It's life that influences me most... But I first started noticing the art of songwriting when it came to writers like Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Rikki Lee Jones, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, etc.... I remember watching James Taylor in concert and thinking..."cool...I wanna do that." I also remember someone giving me a copy of Little Earthquakes (Tori Amos) when I first started writing, and I was moved by the honesty of that record. I met her early on and a discussion we had about using our voices to tell a story rather than to "SING" and how when you stop trying to fit in, you figure out who you really are......I think that impacted me.
OK, please tell all the viewers and listeners how you came to have the nickname pnut?
When I was born, the nurse handed me to my Mom and said "here's your little peanut." (I was 4.5 pounds when she took me home from the hospital.....) It's literally a nickname from day one. And when I had to pick a screen name for AOL....."pnutsings" was my choice. Most of my friends and fans call me "pnut."
Tell us all about the best gig you ever played. What made it so special?
That's a tough one ....I have so many shows that are special for different reasons. I had a show in April at the Knitting Factory that stood out for a few reasons. First, I had just recently been on the Mark & Brian show (KLOS 95.5 fm). I played live and was interviewed on the air - and that radio show sparked a new wave of enthusiastic fans, some of whom showed up at the Knitting Factory. It was an all ages show and it was wonderful to see a 4 year old AND an 80 year old singing my songs in the same room. The most memorable moment was when I was singing "Heaven Knows"...there's a line that goes "somebody give me a chance or a keep out sticker for this industry a--hole who's taking up space on my list. Is it so wrong to want a few moments to shine?" The song continues: "Heaven Knows someday I'll have mine." And I almost cried for three reasons: 1) I was given a few moments to shine - on KLOS. 2) William Morris Agency had just asked to work with me that week and my new agent was standing right in front of me - someone who is taking a HUGE chance on an independent artist and 3) I realized my fans have been giving me moments to shine from day one. Sometimes we're searching high and low for what's been in front of our faces the whole time.
Just as meaningingful ....I played a gig last week for a group of poets. I did this one solo-acoustic. They gave me a standing ovation. I'm sure they have no idea how much it meant to be appreciated by a room full of talented poets who share my love of words.
Please tell us some things you would like to do musically that you haven't had a chance to do yet.
I want to learn how to play drums. I want to master my guitar. I want to write a song with Carole King. There are many countries I'd like to tour... And I'd love to write an album for children.
What are some of the differences between Cindy Alexander five years ago and Cindy Alexander today?
1. I've learned that I can be happy and still be creative. 2. I've settled into my voice. 3. I don't try so hard. I just ...am who I am. 4. I allow meat on my plate.
Are you optimistic regarding the future of the world and things in general or do you have a bleaker vision of the future? Why?
I see the best in people. Everyone is wonderful until they hurt me. The world is crazy, dangerous, unpredictable....but I tend to create a heaven for myself wherever I go, I guess in order to survive and enjoy the ride. I've known pain and I've seen pain...a lot of it. But it's all relative. In the scheme of things, I am LUCKY.
OK now you get to play either/or. Beatles or Rolling Stones?
Depends on my mood.....right now Beatles. I have a revitalized appreciation for them thanks to my boyfriend. A paperback book that has the chord charts for 100 Beatle's songs is bathroom reading material. ;)
Beer or Wine?
Coke or Pepsi?
Acoustic or Electric?
Sedan, SUV, or Sport Coupe?
I'm just not into cars.
Steak or Salad?
Hmmm.....both. How 'bout a steak salad?
Spring or Fall?
Pink or Black?
Stage or Recording Studio?